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  • I turned 45 years old a few days ago, which means I’ve lived about 15 years longer than I thought I would. A bit over a century ago, I’d more than likely be a dead man by now as I would have hit the average mortality rate for the late nineteenth century, and some infection and the lack of antibiotics would have taken me out already. For some reason, turning 45 wasn’t a big deal. These days, it’s really just half way of your 40s to 50 which various advertisers are pimping as the new 20 or some such nonsense. In my case, I haven’t progressed much since my twenties, so at least on an emotional and developmental level, that axiom does hold true: I don’t make enough money to feather a proper nest, I still have roommates, and my walls are covered in bizarre posters and knick-knacks that would have a hard time even finding a place in a proper man-cave without the female of the house freaking out and demanding that most of them go and the few that stay get put into frames. For me, being 45 is almost like being 25. I still do many of the stupid things I did at 25; I just don't do them as much and preform them ritualistically without a sense of adventure or really any hope for the future . . . which really takes the pressure off of everything.

    As I look back on it, I’ve never really cared much about my birthdays. Even when I was much younger, it was just another day. Now, that could be due to my upbringing. My parents aren’t really the celebratory type. The moment I hit my teen years, and they wouldn’t be perceived as monsters, they cancelled Christmas. We were Buddhists after all; at least they were, and I was by default. Buddhists don’t celebrate Xmas, so when not being seen as the Grinch who would steal Christmas from a child, they wiped it off the books and instead bought me clothes for school before the school year started, and threw me a little cash and a card for my birthday. There were no parties, but I was okay with that. We had just moved to a new town, I was socially awkward, and the thought of even having a party and formally inviting people was completely foreign to me. I had a few metal head friends that I hung out with and started playing music with, and every day was potentially a party, if someone could score some weed or pimp some beer off one of their older brothers.

    I’m trying to think back to all of those pivotal birthdays we’re supposed to be conscious of and none of them seem to ring a giant bell. Mom had given up the Jew thing for chanting to a Buddha box a month after my birth, so there was no Bar Mitzvah at 13 for me. I turned 18 toward the end of my senior year in high school, but I got nothing out of it. I was still living at home with the Buddhist/pacifist folks, so I couldn’t own firearms, I wouldn’t own a car until I was about 21, and I didn’t much care about politics when the elections came around in November of that year. I remember voting, but I can’t even remember who I voted for. The one thing I do remember is signing up for the selected services (the draft) and getting my card. Like hiding under the desks during duck and cover dills, the thought of being forced into the military was horrifying to me, ranking only second to going to prison. Institutions chalked full of violent, ignorant men still repel me to this day, and I’ve done very well in personally avoiding them or at least one of them; the powers that be learned their lesson with Vietnam and instituting a draft to people the armed forces with draftees to go fight for anything less than full-fledged, all out world war. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time, so that dreaded piece of paper would be a ticket that Uncle Sam could punch at a moment’s notice and flip my life plans upside down.

    Turning 21 should have been more of a happy day, but I only remember hanging out and doing homework at the coffee shop my little jazz band did gigs at and just being conscious that I could buy booze legally. Unfortunately, it was the middle of the week, and I had a job and school to think about. I would have a job and school to think about for a couple more years, but I would soon end up in full time school with no need for a job which turned many days into a continuous blur of a party, so really what the hell is a birthday anyway but a free drink in a bar? The first important birthday I remember being aware of was turning 28. Turning 28 and not being a dead 27 year old rock god was a depressing and epic night of drunken idiocy with broken wine bottles, threats and trying to boil the demons out of my head on the stove in a large cook pot. Luckily, I started with cold water and was stopped before it got too hot. As I was traveling and in a constant state of flux, turning 30 wasn’t a real big deal. Ten years later, achieving 40 blew dead dogs because I had been forced to start working retail for Office Max because there was nothing else out there and rents had skyrocketed due to the housing bubble. I had violated one of my rules and wound up wearing a uniform and name tag after the age of 25. Sad as it was, the only thing that stopped me from putting a bullet through my head or sucking on an exhaust pipe was that I was working for Valley College two days a week, so I felt like I was doing at least one job that was worthwhile and (not to sound too much like those “intellectual elitists” Fox news always talks about) that wasn’t beneath my station.

    In late 2008, I was able to quit the shit job and stop using phrases like, “Welcome to Office Max; my name is Patrick. What can I help you find today?” to disinterested secretaries in a rush who knew exactly what they needed and what isle it was in and probably didn’t like being mobbed like they had walked on a car lot as they walked through the front door. Right after I had started working there, some big outside agency full of con-artists got paid big bucks to tell the higher ups for Office Max that treating their clientele with the same kind of feigned interest and concern one gets at a fast food drive-thru was the way to pump up sales. They then got paid even more money to take all of the managers to some Holiday Inn near the beach and train them how to use this phrase effectively, so they could come back and train us lowly workers. It’s amazing what these upper echelon shit-heels will fork money over to try to fix a problem that they can’t really fix, such as a slow economy in a recession. But, that was old news for me. The universe had heard my plaintiff cries in the night, I began working for online colleges, and for the first time in my life began to actually make money above the poverty line. I still wasn’t making enough money to begin to get anywhere near “middle class,” but it was better than being broke all of the time. Four and a half years later, I’m still doing these jobs, although the classes are getting a bit scarcer because I’m in actuality participating as a ground soldier for the next financial bubble for this country, the student loan bubble; however, that’s a whole different rant on its own. I’m still making okay money, most of the time . . . except around my birthday this year.

    For what it’s worth, even though the financial gods tried to doom me with one of my main employers staggering my next class by a week and effectively screwing me out of my check for the last two weeks in March, I did have a nice birthday weekend. Good friends like Devil Dean and Bob “Nobody” Nye popped out of the woodwork and took me out for some birthday meals and drinks on Friday and Sunday, respectively, and Ron “Not Fat” Albert threw a nice double birthday party for both me and his lovely companion Paula on Saturday night. I think I spent a total of seven dollars over the weekend and was well fed and given plenty of booze. Due to people’s kindness, this was one of the nicer birthdays that I can remember, and maybe I’m being paid back for something nice I did a little while back.

    A couple of weekends prior to this birthday weekend, I gave a young man, Ian Bain, an early birthday present of sorts, his first full drum-set. I’ve known his old man Mel for a bit, and I had gone out to see his band play and could see he had real potential for being a good drummer. I had purchased a new kit late last year and the older one, a chrome plated Pearl five piece, was just sitting in a corner gathering dust. Also, when I was fifteen, a family friend had given me his old drum kit that had been sitting around for ages and kicked off what would be a lifetime love/hate relationship with music. Ian and his folks were blown away, and the kid was very thankful for the gift I had given him. Well, we'll see about that happiness thing later. If Ian wakes up about three decades from now at 45 years old, is still living with roommates, pounding away at shit jobs and banging his head against the seemingly impenetrable wall of the music business, all the while looking at the future social media facebook of his midlife crisis at all of his friends that got square, professional jobs as they show pictures of their new Mercedes, or trips to Europe, Thailand, etc., we'll see if he sees this as an act of charity or that I was akin to some evil, Voodoo Witchdoctor cursing him forever with this chrome plated talisman of his doom. Unlike when I got my drum-set from the family friend, I gave Ian the warning I never got to beware of the music bug that gives you an itch that very few rarely get to scratch enough to make it go away. Happy birthday young man and good luck; you’re going to need it in the land of the dumb.
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